Travelin' Light - Riding 2up through the Americas

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by csustewy, May 5, 2011.

  1. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Heading south from Chao took us towards the Cañon del Pato, which is a notorious ride in northern Peru.

    [​IMG]
    (this guy was not going with us)

    While I was excited to check the canyon out, it didn't live up to my expectations. I think it would only be a real treat if you had been traveling on the Panamerican in northern Peru (please don't do it if you can help it!). And hell, if you've only seen the coastal Panamerican for a few days in a row, just about anything would glow in comparison. I don't mean to be so harsh -, riding through the 30+ tunnels in the Cañon del Pato was pretty cool, but overall the scenery was not nearly as impressive as what we had seen in previous days, and far short of what we saw in Huascarán National Park. Take a look for yourself...

    [​IMG]
    (alright, alright, it is still pretty nice...)

    [​IMG]
    (let the tunnels begin)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (the road was originally supposed to go through this tunnel at right, but the tunnel design didn't quite hold up)

    [​IMG]
    (big lunch is the best! Especially for less than US$2)

    [​IMG]
    (light at the end of the tunnel)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Yungay, just north of Huaráz, where we stayed that night for 20 soles, around US$8. Bike parking was in the middle of a small garden with nice flowers spaced every meter around the perimeter. The little old lady watching Mike wheel the bike in just about had a heart attack. But thankfully no flowers were harmed in the process.)
  2. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Riding back and forth through Huascarán National Park was an absolute highlight! The scenery was amazing and the riding itself a lot of fun. From Yungay, we went straight up to the Llanganuco Lakes on our way over to San Luis.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (San Luis, where we stayed. We got there for a fiesta, which translates to drunk men talking to us while literally drooling in our soup. Really drunk men. Lots of drool. Not much more soup eating after that. Fiesta!)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (this young man was proud to pull his weight, even if it was taller than him)

    The next day we visited Chavín de Huántar, a pre-Incan spiritual site, occupied from ca. 1200-200 BC (with some evidence of occupation as early as 3000 BC!). The temples were built in phases throughout that period. Later on in that time, the Mosna river was actually diverted in order to create the main plaza. This location was obviously very important to the Chavín culture. The temples and pyramids have a complex network of tunnels, water channels, acoustic openings, and passageways that are still being investigated today. Exploring some of those tunnels was quite an experience.

    [​IMG]
    (Jill walking into the plaza at Chavín de Huántar)

    [​IMG]
    (the Lanzón is considered to be the supreme deity of the Chavín culture. this lance-shaped monolith is the only carving from its era to remain standing in its original location. (Mike felt drawn to this place and this carving in particular, so he decided to make a souvenir out of it. More on that soon...))

    [​IMG]
    (exploring the tunnels)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (a Lanzón look alike)

    [​IMG]
    (the town Chavín de Huántar was a nice small town that has a nice museum with free admission)

    Leaving Chavín de Huántar took us back across Huascarán NP towards Catac, once again through stunning scenery.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (high plains near Catac)

    From Catac, we turned back east again to head past Pastoruri towards Huallanta and La Unión.

    [​IMG]
    (the road towards Pastoruri)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (the official greeter at the park entrance. This was the second time we had to pay the 5 soles each fee (1st time was up to Llangonuco).)

    [​IMG]
    (we picked up a sheepskin near San Luis, washed it for a couple of hours in Chavín de Huántar, and continued drying it on the back of the bike. The lady offered it to us for 5 soles, but Jill is a sucker (with a big heart) and gave her 20 for it (she did have a lot of kids, and 20 soles still ain't that much). We provided some entertainment, and maybe earned some respect, for the hostel owners in Chavín de Huántar when we washed it and didn't know the drying process. They helped us nail it to their adobe wall to allow it to dry for a full day (less than the prescribed 3) before strapping it to the TA as shown here)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (all of Peru is an archeological site)

    [​IMG]
    (the TA at 4900 meters (= 16000 ft))

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (back to highway, but still beautiful)

    The ride to La Oroya was cold. Once again we found ourselves in a sleet storm above 4000 m while passing near/through Junín. And then arriving into La Oroya was not a very sweet way to finish the day. that town is a shithole. It's a mining/metallurgical capital of Peru, and has the feel that you would expect to go along with it. Hostels that were reasonable were sketchy at best, parking non existant. Near the hospital there were nice hostels (but nothing fancy) with parking that cost 70 soles and up. So we kept going. At one hostel that had a garage we found a room for a reasonable rate, 30 soles. Instead of staying in the hostel, though, the guy led us next door to this fine establishment:

    [​IMG]

    The room was fair, sheets seemed clean, and bathroom was as good as any. So we stayed. To top it all off, the small door is all you got to enter through, and it remained locked even while we were inside. There was a buzzer to ring to get the employees over to let us out. Classy.

    [​IMG]
    (bus shelter outside of La Oroya shows what the area is proud of. We saw lots of pro-mining graffiti in this town which was quite a contrast to what we had seen further north)

    After the beautiful days of riding around Huascarán, followed by a cold and crappy arrival into La Oroya, it was time to get to Lima for some errands.
  3. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,918
    Location:
    Okie near Muskogee
    Love the PUSSY room.:rofl

    That is a must stop in my book:lol3

    Looks like a great time, too bad the weather didn't hold for you on the Colombian Road of Death, glad you went in the area, worth the ride.
  4. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Yeah, we still think back to how incredible the riding was in southern Colombia. Even with some weather it was fantastic!

    I'm glad we can repay the favor of providing us with some great ride recommendations by providing you with a ride recommendation as well (in the pussy room). Hope your leg is mending nicely and you are already planning your return to VZ.
  5. Hotmamaandme

    Hotmamaandme Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,724
    Location:
    Gardnerville NV
    How did the TA do at 16,000 feet? Did you rejet the carbs? Jets sizes? Thanks I just love this report and the pics are awsome.
  6. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Hey Cory - always good to hear from you. Glad you are still enjoying the RR!

    The TA moves along fine at those elevations (however, Radioman may disagree as we were recently tagging along with him riding solo on his F800GS...). She can't get anywhere in a hurry, but especially given that she's so loaded, she manages just fine. I finally switched out my clogged old pilot jets for some fresh new 0.040 DG pilots (1 step up from stock 0.038). I'd have to say that the TA was running better at ~16000 ft with those clogged jets (which makes sense), but I'm getting closer to finding elevation appropriate mixture settings. So far I have left the needle position and main jets alone, and still consider shimming the needle (like Ladder says in the TA thread), but am happy enough that I am in no rush to adjust that.
  7. Hotmamaandme

    Hotmamaandme Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,724
    Location:
    Gardnerville NV

    Thanks for the reply I to did the .40 pilot jets and left the rest alone. You two continue to live the adventure for us.
  8. Oldfart123

    Oldfart123 Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 16, 2011
    Oddometer:
    12
    Hey Guys,
    I'm still following your travels since our chance meeting in the parking lot at Mesa Verde. When following your travels it is hard not to envision replicating such a trip, but when reality sets in, one of the most daunting "flies in the ointment" is Mike's ability to repair the Honda. Assuming one has a newer bike like a late model BMW GS, would the maintenance knowledge to keep the bike running be radically different. Another way of asking is it possible/likely to travel thru the areas you have with less knowledge of mechanical repair with a newer bike than the old Honda or is any bike likely to have multiple repair issues due to the terrain and riding conditions?
    Be safe and know you are on the trip of a lifetime,
    Eric Sandberg
    Atlanta, Ga
  9. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver

    Eric - we are so glad that you have still been following along! (And our license plate bolts have stayed on solid ever since you noticed one working loose in Mesa Verde - thanks for that.)

    Honestly, I wouldn't hesitate to take this kind of trip on any kind of bike, but the 2 things that I would recommend most (with more explanation below) would be:

    1 - some Spanish
    2 - basic knowledge about whatever bike you choose to take

    Having the ability to get even simple points across in Spanish will help any traveler in the Americas, from basic exhanges (meals, hotels, gas) to border crossings to police checkpoints to bike issues. And really, fluency or conversational Spanish is not so important as just knowing enough to be comfortable explaining what's happening and what you need.

    Back to what you asked though, as far as bike maintenance, let it be known that I am an absolute hack. All of my Transalp knowledge comes from the great resources on this forum (there is a Transalp mega-thread) combined witth the Haynes and Honda service manuals. I enjoy digging into whatever problem may come up, but always appreciate and often require assistance from someone with better mechanical knowledge than me. Luckily, the Transalp has been incredibly reliable, especially given what we've put her through. But there are plenty of moto mechanics in all towns throughout the Americas if an issue does come up. Having talked with a few other travelers on late model BMW's and KTM's, their experience is a bit different. I imagine they may enjoy riding their machines a ton, but often they search harder for brand specific shops for maintenance, parts, and problem solving. In some cases, it is required (no small town mechanic will have a diagnostic computer or BMW specific tools) while in other cases it is a way for them to try to get the best service for their machine. No matter what bike you would take, having a basic level of comfort with maintenance will ease some of that service searching.

    I am extremely happy with our 23 year old Honda Transalp. Without a computer on board, I know that I can address most electrical issues, the engine is known to be extremely reliable, it's chain driven, etc. However, I have met riders on late model bikes that are extremely happy with their machines as well (and I've met a few who have had major issues with their late model bikes).

    Don't let any of those hesitations hold you back from taking a trip like this. Once you are on the road, it will all start to fall into place. And well, if it doesn't work out perfectly, then you just created an even better story!

    We are definitely still loving our trip of a lifetime. And thanks again for dropping us a line - it's really good to hear from you.

    -Mike
  10. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Although we are not too hot on big cities, they are a good place to get some errands done, which is exactly what we did in Lima. Lima is notorious for having horrendous traffic, and it didn't disappoint, although it wasn't as bad as expected. We had a couple of hostel addresses written down, and were actually able to find them, but both ended up being booked up, so we settled for the Flying Dog hostel located on the main park in Miraflores, Parque Kennedy (Miraflores is the nice part of Lima that all the tourists go to). It was a fine place to park the bike (although we managed to piss the bartender off pretty bad for having the nerve to work on the bike in his outdoor area, despite the fact than no one ever used the space). We thought the hostel was a bit overpriced at 30 soles per person for a dorm bed, but at least they had hot water and wifi. We also had a strange man from the US who stayed in our room who liked to stay out late, wake up early, and nap all day in only his boxer briefs with no sheet on. This man also happened to be older and overweight, making for a pretty embarrassing scene for everyone (but somehow maybe not for him?). There were also two cats in the hostel that liked to spray, making for some pretty weird smells in some areas.

    Speaking of cats, Kennedy Park is home to hundreds of cats. We saw some signs in the park asking people not to abandon their cats in the park and also asking that if you want to adopt (= take) a cat that you bring a cage to put it in. Apparently it has become popular to leave your unwanted cat in the park. Many of them have been painted by a mysterious cat painter (favorite color = purple).

    The major reason we came to Lima was to pick up a box mailed to us from the states to a very nice inmate, Bluebull2007. The box contained Jill's warmer riding jacket that she had sent home in Arizona and that she needs now. It also had two more CDI's for the bike, since we had to replace the last two we had in Brazil. Not only did we contact Bluebull2007 unsolicited, but he also had to wait in line for several hours at customs to pick up the box. Then when we met him to pick up the box, he insisted that he take us out to dinner. A very nice dinner, which we enjoyed very much. Neil has been in Lima for about five years and runs a silver mine in Bolivia. He is originally from South Africa and picked up quite a bit of mining experience in Africa. He is also a crazy dirt bike rider with some intense stories of riding and near disasters while riding in Peru. He also recommended our route to Cusco, which turned out to be great advice. We really enjoyed meeting him and hope to run into him again when we visit the mine in Bolivia.

    [​IMG]
    (Us with Neil outside of the wonderful restaurant he took us to)

    Also in the box were 2 new pilot jets for the carburetor, allowing us to finally get rid of our miss at low engine speeds and poor off-idle performance. After having cleaned the old jets a few times in the past few months, it made the swap pretty darn easy with so much practice. The other important errand to run while in Lima was to find some new brake pads. Even with 3 reputable shops to try, no one had replacements. One offered to order them online, but at a huge mark-up and with a 30 day delay. No thanks. Conveniently while at MotoPerformance Peru, some other travelers pulled up - Jordan (gordojordo) and Anne (aka17) on their KLR650 and Will on his new-to-him DR650. They were in the middle of finding a shop to lace their new-to-them rear wheel, which they did finally get sorted. Thanks to their advice I was able to find a shop to refill our old brake pads, which kept us going even if they are pretty crappy. And better yet, we got to hang out with them a couple of nights later.

    Jordan and Anne had just finished up their Peace Corps service in Paraguay, bought a bike from another traveler there, and have spent the past couple of months traveling extensively in Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru. They will be on the road another month or so before selling the bike and moving on to their next adventure. Their friend Will had just flown in from the states, bought a bike from someone that works in our hostel, and was planning on traveling with them south (more on that later). We had a really good time hanging out for the night, although at least one of us had a few too many Pisco Sours to be able to travel the next day as planned. We also had some delicious Pollo a la Brasa, which has become a staple for us here in Peru. You can order a 1/4, 1/2 or 1 full chicken and it comes with french fries and salad. A 1/4 order is a huge amount of food, is delicious, and usually costs 6-10 soles (about $2-4) depending on how touristy the town is. Sometimes we eat it on several consecutive days. We love it.

    [​IMG]
    (Anne, Will, Jordan and Mike post-Pollos)


    Perhaps the best errand that got done though, was for Mike to get some art (i.e. a tattoo). After stopping in a couple of shops, he settled on Dakar Tattoo shop, which turned out to do a great job. He was drawn to the Lanzón design from our visit to the ruins in Chavín de Huántar. So now it stays with him on his shin.

    [​IMG]
    (in the middle of the three hour process)

    [​IMG]
    (the final product)


    [​IMG]
    (we always like to see good graffiti)

    [​IMG]
    (sunset from Larcomar, the extravagant shopping mall right on the beach)
  11. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Following BlueBull2007's advice, we went south out of Lima along the Panamericana (yeccchhh) until we hit San Vicente del Cañete where we turned east towards Huancayo. The ride turned out to be beautiful, as promised.

    [​IMG]
    (winding 1-ish lane road much of the way)

    [​IMG]
    (huge canyon walls)

    [​IMG]
    (crazy canyon walls)

    [​IMG]
    (interesting small towns along the way with tire eating troughs in the middle of the road)

    [​IMG]
    ("killer boots, man!")

    [​IMG]
    (up to the high plains)

    [​IMG]
    (some stretches were more green)

    [​IMG]
    (this town right on the railroad tracks felt a bit like the Peruvian wild west)

    [​IMG]
    (we let the goats have the right of way)

    [​IMG]
    (the road ended up back at lower elevations with some dry desert scenery)

    Leaving Huancayo for Ayacucho we passed a bicyclist from Minnesota who we had met in passing just crossing Huascarán the last time. The crazy part is that he had been riding hard everday to get through Huancayo, while we had dropped down to Lima from La Oroya, hung out for a few days, then worked our way back up to the mountains. Those bikers certainly have their work cut out for them!

    [​IMG]
    (Christopher on the road. It's nice to catch bicyclists with a smile on their face...sometimes they look a little more, uh, taxed)

    [​IMG]
    (on the right path)

    [​IMG]

    We ended up going through a major construction zone before hitting Ayacucho, as well as after. It dramatically changed the course of some of our days...

    [​IMG]
    (in the little town of Ocros we stopped for lunch, where we provided some entertainment for the school kids)

    [​IMG]
    (at the edge of town there was a roadblock for construction, which closed back down at 1:30. We, of course, arrived there at 1:45. The next time to pass was at 5:30. Shoot. We had even been asking about the road to Ayacucho and noone mentioned the blockage. So we were stuck)

    [​IMG]
    (we ended up staring at this tree for much of the 4 hour delay)

    [​IMG]
    (sun setting after our 5:30 departure from Ocros)

    We stopped short of our planned destination, which would have been about 4 hours of riding, finding a small town just 2 hours down the road. But it still required lots of dark dirt riding through a construction zone. Un-fun. The next day was a nice day as we continued towards Ayacucho, where we stayed the night. Leaving Ayacucho started off with replacing 2 completely thrashed front wheel bearings. Not so bad except for having to weld a piece onto one of the outer races to get it out of the wheel. But ready to go after about an hour. We then proceeded to take nearly an hour and a half to find our way out of town on the correct highway. It should not have been that hard, but between the poor GPS map, a huge ravine with no way to cross, and Latin directions, it was just one of those mornings. To be followed by:

    [​IMG]
    (the zona de BOOM that kept us in one spot for 2 hours on our way to Abancay. I guess 2 is better than 4.)

    [​IMG]
    (And we got some entertainment by a municipality driver who tried to pull rank on the nice lady working the closure. What an asshole. But quite common for some of these small town officials (which may even be a stretch in this case) in Latin America. Poor construction worker lady shown here)

    We finally started to feel like we were making progress to Cusco, though. After finally arriving in Abancay (we could see the town for what felt like hours as we worked our way down switchbacks on the other side of the valley) we found out we'd be back on autopista (=paved) to Cusco, after hundreds of km of carretera (= dirt) and unexpected construction.

    [​IMG]
    (some of the relentless switchbacks into Abancay)

    [​IMG]
    (the ride from Abancay to Cusco is about 4 hours and an absolute blast)

    We rolled into Cusco as night set in, extremely happy to arrive at a location where we would stay for a few days. But of course, it was a bit of a challenge navigating the busy one way streets to find the hostel we planned on staying at, La Estrellita. Even so, it served as a good introductory tour of Cusco.
  12. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Thanks to Radioman's advanced efforts to reserve us our entry to Machu Picchu (go to the official ministry of tourism to pay the right price, around US$50) and Huaynu Picchu (additional US$10, but very worth it), we didn't have too much to do while in Cusco.

    [​IMG]
    (main plaza in Cusco. This town is full of gringos and of people trying to sell massages and meals to gringos. It could grow old fast. There were some nice places to see, and redeeming qualities, though)

    Two main things on our list were to find a good book exchange for Jill (mainly) and to find a new front tire for Mike (well, for both of us, but Mike gets to have this errand). The book exchange was a flop. The bookstores all have really crappy English books, if any at all. Some bars/coffee shops advertise book exchanges, but they are in it for profit even if you have a book to trade (talking more than US$15 for used books and they'll give you about 3...). Hostels didn't have much to offer. No dice. But Mike found a new front tire!

    [​IMG]
    (scary old Sahara 3)

    [​IMG]
    (brand new MT-21! at a fair cost of S/150, US$57)

    Exploring some more of Cusco by foot allowed us to see a bit more than just the main plazas and markets. Highlights included the all you can eat Indian food buffet for S/15 (alright, alright, this is kind of what we were complaining about just a second ago, but they didn't have a pusher-man out front, just a sign), the used clothes market, and the wild, attacking vicuñas.

    [​IMG]
    (when walls may fall down, they just put up a sign and let you figure it out)

    [​IMG]
    (FYI - this is what a vicuña looks like when he's angry and wants to attack. In a guide book we read that you can enter the grounds of some public building and pet llamas and vicuñas, which sounded like fun. We had a different sort of fun...)

    [​IMG]
    (...vicuña running wildly in attack mode...)

    [​IMG]
    (...vicuña chasing an unexpecting female tourist in circles, trying to kick her in the face...)

    [​IMG]
    (...eventually the vicuña calmed down and just wanted to eat her clothes. All while this was happening, we, and the male companion of the tourist being attacked, were laughing hysterically. But we were also glad the vicuña didn't choose us as the target.)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (crazy hail storm at la Estrellita)

    The route to Machu Picchu took us through the Sacred Valley, past tons of Incan ruins, and through some interesting little towns. I'm sure a train ride up would be beautiful and scenic, but our approach was tough to beat!

    [​IMG]
    (on the plaza in Ollantaytambo)

    [​IMG]
    (Riding through Ollantaytambo, with ruins immediately ahead)

    [​IMG]
    (ruins seen from the road exist all throughout the Sacred Valley)

    [​IMG]
    (Radioman following us through the switchbacks. He was nice to slow his new machine down to match our old school, 2-up pace.)

    [​IMG]
    (twisties on the way up to the 14000+ ft summit of Abra de Malaga)

    [​IMG]
    (sometimes you gotta stop)

    [​IMG]
    (getting closer to Sta Teresa we ran into Guillaume, a Frenchman living in Thailand on a South American break for 6 months. His story is HERE)

    [​IMG]
    (some of these drainage troughs were super slippery, coated with a layer of moss or algae on the bottom. Crossing one we had a fun little TA dance going, but luckily held it together)

    [​IMG]
    (the last couple of hours to Sta Teresa were on this fun dirt road)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Mark loving the ride)

    [​IMG]
    (pulling up next to Mark on the road to Sta Teresa)

    [​IMG]
    (surprise truck passing around a bend is old hat by now. But somehow still always a surprise)

    Arriving in Sta Teresa, we found a nice little hostel that offered camping and a place to park the bikes for S/5 a night.

    [​IMG]
    (bike storage in Sta Teresa. The owner even kept our boots and riding gear locked up inside. It worked out well)

    As luck turned out, there was a van getting loaded to take a run the 7 km up to the hydroelectric damn. So we jumped in for the going rate of S/5 each. There you can either take a train to Aguas Calientes or walk, but since the train cost almost US$20 one way, you can guess what we did.

    [​IMG]
    (on the way to Aguas Calientes. It's a 2.5 hour walk but pretty flat so easy overall)

    [​IMG]
    (no walking, whaaat?)

    [​IMG]
    (although the train would've been faster. We didn't know it at the time, but at top left is Machu Picchu. The walk takes you right around Huaynu Picchu, and you get glimpses of terraced land down lower on the hillsides at times, but man, this site was well-hidden)

    [​IMG]
    (with how many different layers we wear as moto travelers, we're all used to changing quickly wherever. We just consider it a "cultural exchange")

    [​IMG]

    Aguascalientes is a little tourist hotspot that's been overbuilt with accomodations and restaurants. The best offer is generally the 4 x 1 mixed drinks (mmmm, pisco sour) - but make sure you get your free nachos with it, they often try to get out of that part - and the S/15 menú. Simple but good options. However, the draw to Aguascalientes has nothing to do with what Aguascalientes itself offers; it has everything to do with what sits beside it...


    IF TAKING THIS RIDE:
    2uprtw posted excellent info HERE and excerpted below

  13. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    First of all, let's just start by saying that Machu Picchu is amazing. Absolutely incredible. There are some people who claim it's overrated, that other sites in Peru are superior. But I just don't agree. The setting of Machu Picchu is stunning, the ruins themselves fascinating, and the spectacular ruins and views from Huaynu Picchu are in a league of their own. Granted, it is really crowded at Machu Picchu, but there are ways to avoid the worst of it. Now, here're the details:

    We took the bus up from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, US$9 each, and would recommend anyone else do the same. You will get plenty of walking at the site, and the hike to the site ain't that cool. Get in line early. Buses start to leave at 5:30am. We got there at 5 am, but a desire for coffee put us on the 4th bus up.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Approaching the Sun Gate (Intipuncu) at daybreak. Hikers that take the Inca Trail arrive at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate so there were a number of people up there before us. (Hikers that take the Salcantay route ended up with us on the railroad tracks from the Hydroelectric dam to Aguas Calientes))

    [​IMG]
    (the clouds were thick that morning, but began lifting as we made our way back down from the Sun Gate)

    We explored some of the upper areas of the site when the clouds were still hovering over the ridge, adding to the mysticism (you knew we'd say it, Mark) as they broke slightly and you could catch glimpses of the ruins.

    [​IMG]
    (this little chair was one of our first glimpses of how much stone work was done. Even though it looks like a lounger, I'm pretty sure that whoever was sitting in the chair was not comfortable there. You can see evidence of rope or chain worn into the rock near the shoulders. At the back of the altar there were stone eyelets. But the carved stone stairs and curvature of the stone can be found all over Machu Picchu.)

    [​IMG]
    (for instance, these round, timber-looking stones protruded near the roof line on many structures. The rebuilt houses show the roofs being tied off to them (as pictured). Maybe these stone builders just liked the exotic (to them) timber frame look?)

    [​IMG]
    (this was one of our greeters back down at the main site)

    [​IMG]
    (along with a few other tourists.)

    [​IMG]
    (even so, you can still get some amazing views)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (panaromic of us at Machu Picchu. Radioman took some really great shots that day, and was kind enough to share with us. Mark, it was fantastic being able to tour Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley with you! Thanks again for everything!)

    [​IMG]
    (the stone work is amazing, with many walls having crisp, defined lines at the tight joints between rocks)

    [​IMG]
    (walls often incorporated large stones seamlessly)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Huayna Picchu is that steep mountain in the background. It's a definite hike up, but well worth it as the views are incredible and crowds less - only 400 people are allowed up each day, 200 in the morning and 200 late morning. We had the late morning slot and it worked out great.)

    [​IMG]
    (us at the base of the ruins on top of Huayna Picchu)

    [​IMG]
    (Jill working her way out of a tunnel on Huayna Picchu)

    [​IMG]
    (Mike on an exposed staircase. Someone else's video of the exposure can be seen HERE with a good overview of the site including the road out to the Sun Gate at around 1 min 10 sec in)

    [​IMG]
    (steep terraces of Machu Picchu as seen looking back from Huaynu Picchu)

    [​IMG]
    (Huaynu Picchu is situated on a very steep, very tall cliff face. Mike walked no further)

    [​IMG]
    (Jill taking it all in from the peak)

    From the top of Huayna Picchu, you can either backtrack down the same way you came up, or take a trail that drops down the back of the mountain, past 2 more known ruins and then connects back up with the main Huayna Picchu trail. The hike is strenuous, but well worth it! Of the 400 people that go up to Huayna Picchu in a day, very few take this longer hike (adding a couple of hours to the Huayna Picchu part). I would guess we were 3 of around 20 other people who took this path. It was beautiful.

    [​IMG]
    (following the Incan trail down and around Huayna Picchu)

    [​IMG]
    (the trail brings you to the Templo de la Luna...)

    [​IMG]
    (and to the Gran Caverna)

    [​IMG]
    (some interesting walking)

    [​IMG]
    (to top it all off, we had this incredible rainbow waiting for us after we made it back to the main trail)

    Even though we were pretty exhausted after the hike, Jill, Mike, and Joe, our new friend from Denver we ran into on Huayna Picchu, let a coin flip decide that they were going to hike up the small peak even closer to the ruins, Huchuypichhu. Just inside the Huayna Picchu checkpoint (they make you sign in and out to ensure everyone comes back...some of these trails are not for the faint of heart) there is a turn off for this little peak and in fact the sign says '<-- --="--" large="large" nbsp="nbsp" or="or" picchu="picchu" small="small" uayna="uayna" uchuypicchu="uchuypicchu">'. This hike was much shorter than the 45 min up Huayna Picchu, only taking 10 or so from the turn off. But there are some sections of path even narrower than the main trail.

    [​IMG]
    (Jill rappelling at Huchuypicchu)

    [​IMG]

    We were the last group of people to check out of the Huayna Picchu gate (aside from 2 others right behind us) and that time exploring made our day! Even though it was already nearing 3pm, we still had some time to check out the main area and to see the Inca bridge, which is worth the walk.

    [​IMG]
    (more impressive stone work for water channels)

    [​IMG]
    (this doormat must've meant something. You don't see many blue rocks on site)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (inca bridge. Look at that trail!)

    [​IMG]
    (I guess it was built as a way to block access to the site - chuck the boards and you'd have a real tough, slow, vulnerable time climbing down those exposed rock side-stairs to get to the other side)

    It was getting late in the day, especially with the site closing within the hour (5pm). We were out of water (bring lots!) and ready to use a bathroom (you can't find those on premises, either). Thankfully a young employee at the snack stand at the entrance filled our empty bottle with tap water free of charge (as opposed to the exorbitant prices for their selection). He was real reluctant to do so, good thing his manager wasn't around.

    [​IMG]
    (the llamas reclaim the site later in the day)

    We met back up with Joe and walked down the hill, saving the US$9 each. The walk is easy enough on the way down, taking an hour or so to reach Aguas calientes at our slow, exhausted pace. We rewarded ourselves with a beer at the first stand in town, and had a good chat with Joe.

    Our day at Machu Picchu was phenomenal! Some of what made it that way was allowing the full day to be up there, being prepared to walk all day long at that elevation, and taking the hike up and around Huayna Picchu.
  14. Hotmamaandme

    Hotmamaandme Wishing I was riding RTW

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,724
    Location:
    Gardnerville NV
    So very cool. Im jealous. That's on my bucket list:D
  15. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    It should definitely be on your bucket list! And there's a good bike rental agency (among many) in Cusco, so you can explore the Sacred Vally by moto in an easier to manage vacation package. Just sayin'... (but then again, I know that it'd be sad to be there without your TA)

    Glad your still following along, Cory! Over the next week or so we should be caught up to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where I sit now, including the death road, Yungas mtns, and the Salar de Uyuni. Stay tuned...
  16. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Backtracking out of Aguas Calientes was the reverse of arriving, but still a fun area to backtrack in! On the hike back to the hydroelectric dam we were a bit more aware of our surroundings after seeing them from above.

    [​IMG]
    (can you find Machu Picchu? Hint: Machu Picchu mountain is peak at top center, Huayna Picchu at top left. No wonder this site was undiscovered for so long...)

    [​IMG]
    (between Sta Teresa and Sta Maria)

    [​IMG]
    (it was a bit dusty following Mark)

    [​IMG]
    (we had a nice clear ride this time over the Abra de Malaga)

    [​IMG]
    (managing to pull into the famous Ollantaytambo market on a Sunday afternoon. Busy. Super busy. With a silly traffic jam caused by one-lane bottlenecks on each side of the market. Mark made it through a crucial opening before the trucks closed the gap, so we met him in the plaza a little while later)

    [​IMG]
    ("Prohibido Estacionar" where? Over there?")

    [​IMG]
    (Ollantaytambo is a cool little town to explore, with ruins basically in town)

    [​IMG]
    (sunset from one of the many small pedestrian walks surrounding the main streets.)

    [​IMG]
    (Mark had taken advantage of the market to find a souvenir hood ornament. Here at the machine shop getting it fitted for its zip-tie mounting)

    [​IMG]
    (here ready for the road)

    From Ollantaytambo we headed down to Pisac, another well known set of ruins in the Sacred Valley. We had heard you can drive/hike above them for a good view without having to pay the entrance fee (which sounded perfect because we were having a hard time justifying the S/130 or 150 fee to enter all of these other ruins, especially given that in northern Peru - in fact anywhere that isn't easily reachable from Cusco - the entrance fee is S/10). Turns out they just meant from the road, but the view was still pretty good.

    [​IMG]
    (Pisac from afar)

    We had a nice, cheap (only S/4) menú del día with Mark in Pisac before saying our good byes (for now).

    [​IMG]

    From Pisac we motored to Pikillacta, a sprawling pre-Incan ruin that is much less visited than many sites. We timed our arrival perfectly to pay our S/10 entrance (ahh) and wait out a strong thunderstorm in a bus shelter. We had the place entirely to ourselves.

    [​IMG]
    (the site covers nearly 2 square kilometers, with some walls running almost 1 km long. It was apparently only ever used intermittently, never as a permanent settlement.)

    [​IMG]

    After an hour or so we continued on down the road to Sicuani where we eventually found a place to stay the night. That town was not a highlight. The next day was fun, though as we worked our way through some small towns towards Arequipa.

    [​IMG]
    ("Spring breaker". Within 50 km we saw 3 other names for the everpresent speed bumps: the classic "reductor de velocidad", "giba", and "resalto". But "rompe muelle" is the best.)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (we even ran into Will, who we hung out with in Lima, on the way. He ended up sticking in Peru for more time rather than heading down to Chile right away, but we may see him again in Bolivia...)

    [​IMG]
    (pulling into Arequipa was a bit busy. This is the usual state of traffic near the plaza)

    [​IMG]
    (but at least they have cops at almost every corner who blow a whistle but don't change much. Lady cops often wear cowboy hats. So many different styles of hat exist throughout the Andes. But not cowboy hats. Except on lady cops in Arequipa.)

    Arequipa was a nice town to explore for a few days. The downtown area has a nice colonial feel, there are lots of good restaurants with plenty of variety (favorites included Mediterranean and Mexican, of course), and the people super friendly (including the lady who randomly offered to help us start a business there). However, it was not a good city for our errands. In fact, we went 0 for about 7. But in short, Bolivia does not have a consulate there, even though Bolivia's consulate webpage lists a specific address and phone number. We found the address but the door man was insistent that it never used to be there. Wikitravel listed a coffeeshop as having a book exchange, but when we asked the employees they thought we were crazy. Mike could not find a moto shop to buy an oil filter (but he did get the air filter blown out, so 1 small errand was accomplished). And some other smaller tasks just didn't get done. Leaving aside specifics, Arequipa was cool to check out. But don't do it from the Point Hostel. That place sucked.

    [​IMG]
    (Arequipa's famous rocoto relleno = stuffed pepper. Served with pastel de papa = potato cake (literally), it's a layered potato casserole. Too much food, but sooo good. We had this upstairs at the public market.)

    [​IMG]
    (Plaza de Armas at night)
  17. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Colca Canyon, within a couple hundred kilometers of Arequipa, is one of Peru's top tourist destinations, known for its natural beauty and soaring condors. It was on our list of places to see in Peru, so there we went.

    [​IMG]
    ("fog zone" One of the few road signs that you love to see when it's inaccurate)

    [​IMG]
    (the road is in great shape for the first half of the ride)

    [​IMG]
    (allowing us to zoom past all of the road side souvenir stands. There was a lot of them. And I think tour buses may actually stop at each one. Which would be great if you're into that sort of thing)

    After a beautiful ride to the start of the canyon, you are stopped at the park entrance gate. Entry fee: S/70 each (~US$25 each). Yowzaws! It took a good deal of convincing the lady that all we really wanted to do was get into Chivay (about 200 meters away) to eat lunch. We really did just want to get into Chivay and eat lunch. She said that if we decided to go into the canyon that we would just have to pay further down the road at the next checkpoint (eventually she backtracked on that, saying it would be weird for someone to end up there without having paid, and that we should return to her to pay). So while at lunch we talked about what we wanted to do. We figured we'd ride up the canyon at least until the other checkpoint and then figure it out from there.

    [​IMG]
    (the road to get into the canyon is dirt. No entrance fees are used in the maintenance of this road. It was incredibly washboardy in places. And incredibly windy in places. That doesn't have anything to do with road maintenance, but it certainly doesn't make those dusty stretches any more fun.)

    [​IMG]
    (Apparently the entrance fees go to build these fancy archways, found at each of the small little towns along the way.)

    The second checkpoint had a raised gate, so we kept on driving. I guess it was because of our odd timing that it was so easy to get through - most tours get to the main overlook at dawn or so. At this point, though, we started to reflect back on what our friend Will had mentioned about the canyon: if you've seen the San Juans (mtn range in SW Colorado), don't bother with Colca Canyon. And we both fully agree. The canyon was pleasant enough, but really didn't compare to some of the canyons we've seen in other places in Peru (or SW Colorado, for that matter). We didn't see any condors flying around, and I'm sure that would change our perspective on it.

    [​IMG]
    (view from the main overlook where all the tour groups go to see Condors. It's scenic, but somehow not as impressive of a vista as I expected from the purported deepest canyon in the world)

    Without an abundance of enthusiasm for the area, we decided to head back to Chivay to stay the night on our way towards Puno.

    [​IMG]
    (it got real dark in this tunnel, which has a dog-leg right (from this direction only, of course) combined with some chunky rocks and loose sand. It was a bit disorienting. And kinda fun.)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    (Chivay was a nice place to stay, small town with restaurants across the spectrum, nice pedestrian area, market, all the fixin's)

    [​IMG]
    (Chivay even provided us with a gorgeous sunset)

    [​IMG]
    (even though there is a wide spectrum of restaurants available (some with white table cloths!) you all know by now what we tend towards. Jill ordering salchipapas from a vendor who had it all. Salchipapas are a favorite though - french fries (the "papas" part) topped with fried hot dog pieces (the "salchi" part, short for "salchicha"). Here we got an American-sized (read, too big) portion for S/4)

    That night Chivay was throwing some kind of a raging party. We never really found out what the holiday/excuse was, but it seemed like the whole town must have been there. If they weren't there, it was still okay, you could hear the music from anywhere in town. Even the next day some of the partying continued:

    [​IMG]
    (next door to our hotel was a bar. This was taken at about 8:30am with the revelers still at it. Well, about half of them were still at it.)

    We broke free of the party atmosphere to make our way to Puno. There was a little bit of backtracking involved to get back to the main road, but then we got to see some new sights which kept the ride a bit interesting, even if on a major highway.

    [​IMG]
    (crazy rocks)

    [​IMG]
    (wind gusts and dust devils also kept the ride interesting)

    [​IMG]
    (approaching Laguna Lagunillas)

    [​IMG]
    (fun clouds)

    [​IMG]
    (and some of what makes a long riding day isn't always scenic. Pollo a la broster (Fried chicken) has a big role, too)

    We had heard a few travelers stories of Puno being a rougher town (one of them getting everything stolen from him just days after a bad motorcycle crash - not a good run for him). So we were glad to roll in mid-afternoon and find a good place with parking, Hotel Arequipa which is on Arequipa street just down from Parque Pino. After walking around Puno for just a day or so, it felt about the same as many other Latin American cities, especially those that aren't as built up for tourism (let's just say it doesn't feel like Cusco). The main tourist attraction is to visit the reed islands on Lago Titicaca, which sound amazing and interesting, but are a complete tourist trap (literally, you're on an island and they will try to charge you extra for a boat ride off of the island). We decided to not visit the islands. Partly because we were feeling over touristed after our last couple of weeks in Peru, and partly because we were ready to get to Bolivia!

    Hotel Arequipa also happens to sit directly across from the Bolivian consulate, and within 2 blocks of both immigration and customs offices. Perfect for our plan to ride around the north/east side of Lago Titicaca! Or so we thought...
  18. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    I follow Radioman's RR, it was interesting to read the story from another perspective :) Thanks!
  19. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Glad you have enjoyed seeing another version of the RR. We'll keep doing what we can to get caught up through the Salar de Uyuni, after which we parted ways. It was a lot of fun touring Bolivia and some of Peru with Radioman!

    (Additionally, you get the benefit of rehearing the story weeks later because we are absolute slackers compared to Radioman's frequent updates. He's good.)
  20. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    back in Denver
    Since the Bolivian consulate in Arequipa was non-existent (and may always have been?) one of our primary errands in Puno was to secure our Bolivian visa. With that in hand, we would check out of Peru (by post dating our stamp at migración in Puno) and get the bike paperwork turned in as necessary to travel around the 'other' side of Lago Titicaca. There are a few small towns around that way, but not much public transport that goes that way - sounded perfect! Since it's seldom traveled by international travelers, there are no border service on the Peru side, and minimal border services on the Bolivian side (migración is there but apparently tough to find, and not always open, and we saw mixed comments on aduana, some saying it's there, others saying you have to take care of temporary import in La Paz). None of this mattered after our visit to the Bolivian consulate.

    We had stayed in touch with Mark, aka Radioman, who arrived in Puno just a couple of days before us. So we met up with him for a quick coffee before heading to the consulate. The man running the office was really nice and offered good information, but no visas - they had run out of the stickers needed for the American passports. Shoot! He promised that they had been sent, and sent DHL, but could only suppose that they would arrive on Wednesday or Thursday of that week. Since it was Monday, that would be 2-3 days of hanging out in Puno hoping that the Wednesday or Thursday delivery actually worked out. He mentioned that we could also take the route we had planned and try to get our visas in La Paz, quoting some part of the code that made that an acceptable approach. I asked him if he would provide a letter stating that we had attempted to get our visas and that the consulate couldn't provide them yada yada. He couldn't get that done until Tuesday (the next day). So part of the reason to go the 'other' route around Lago Titicaca, to avoid the hassle of border towns, was completely thrown out the window. This process could turn out to be a major nightmare. The decision was made - go to La Paz through a major crossing. Today. So Mark went to collect his gear, we did the same, changed some money and got some snacks.

    [​IMG]
    (grouping back up with Mark in front of Hotel Arequipa)

    The ride around this part of the lake was not all that pretty. I kept looking across the lake to the low lying hills, with snow covered peaks in the background, wishing we were over on that less developed side of the lake. It was one of the few times on the trip where I wished we were on a different route. (But it ended up working out fine in the end.)

    [​IMG]
    (fields on the shores of Lake Titicaca)

    We still hadn't decided which main crossing to take - Copacabana or Desaguadero. And no one really cared that much. Giving heads to Copacabana (since 'cabeza' is close), the coin flip said Desaguadero.

    [​IMG]
    (pulling into Desaguadero on the Peruvian side)

    [​IMG]
    (turns out Desaguadero is a pretty chill, easy crossing. The line at Peruvian migración moved quick and the customs officers gave us back our document receipt in a matter of minutes. One small municipality fee of S/5 per vehicle and to Bolivia we went)

    [​IMG]

    After the bridge, we parked on the immediate right, but all of the offices are on the other side of the building (for outgoing traffic). So a better place to keep your eye on your bike would be the other side of the road, but with 3 of us it's less of a concern. First stop - visa.

    [​IMG]
    (paperwork in hand, including application form, passport, passport photo (they don't really care what size, and in fact, we've heard rumors that if you don't have one they have a gringo picture stash that they can try to match you to), proof of yellow fever vaccination (didn't ask for it) and some passport copies. We still had to make another copy once the visa was in the passport and then come back to finish the process, but it was easy enough. Oh yeah, you also have to have US$135 in clean (as in not dirty physically, you're on your own as to where you procure your money) un-torn bills. They will refuse bills, and wanted to refuse an old style $20 bill that the ATM had given us, but telling them that they still circulate got it through)

    Customs was easy. And the office is actually on the first corner of the building that you get to entering Bolivia, so I lied earlier. The guy was helpful and had both of our bikes in the system within 15 min. While watching the bikes, Jill had talked to a number of national policemen and they had been extremely nice. One of them told us we had to register in their records as well. Mark came back from their office and told me to take my passport and DL over there. After writing my info on one line, he told me I had to pay for the service. I told him that I had talked to the ministry of tourism and that the only 2 steps we had to take to enter were with migración and aduana, and that we shouldn't pay anyone else. He then said that registration, and paying, was voluntary. I told him that I volunteered not to and walked out. With a group of 5 or 6 national policemen still around us, we jumped on the bikes pretty quickly and rode about a block and a half to change some money.

    [​IMG]
    (a few of the policemen)

    Luckily the shakedown was easy to get out of, and the other cops didn't harass us any more. This was the first time that we've been in a situation like that - all of our stops by police and military have not included any mention, not even a hint, of payment (...except for that one time in Costa Rica, but we were actually doing something illegal then...). Even so, we got out of it without paying and had no more trouble. We keep talking to travelers who seem to be eager to pay off cops, and some of those stories are frustrating, creating an expectation for all of those cops. I know there are sketchier instances than others, but keep your money in your pocket if you can!